“When we all get to heaven, what a day of rejoicing that will be.”
Three stories coming to a crossroads is the basis of Clint Eastwood’s latest movie, “Hereafter.” Death is their common thread.
The first story is that of Marie LeLay (Cecile De France), a French journalist on holiday in the Pacific Rim. She and her lover are at a seaside resort when a tsunami hits. Marie is carried away by the torrent and has a near-death experience. The experience becomes a constant in her life.
The second story belongs to George Lonegan (Matt Damon), a blue-collar worker with a unique gift: He can see “the other side” and speak to those who have died.
At one time, George made a living out of this. He did readings for people, but the stress of it, the weight of all those needing and wanting to reach their loved ones, got the better of him. He tried to have a normal life, but people like his brother (Jay Mohr) kept telling him to use the gift. George declares it’s not a gift, but a curse.
The third story features Marcus (George McLaren), a twin. He and his brother, Jason (Frankie McLaren), live with a mother who has substance-abuse issues. So as not to spoil, let’s just say their story involves the search for closure after a death.
These stories evolve and Eastwood beautifully shows us how these individuals cope with death. Their trajectories eventually lead to the same place: a book fair in London. Eastwood brings them all together and resolves their stories with sensitivity and warmth.
But, in the end, I still do not know what Eastwood is trying to say. Being a Christian and believing that those who die in Christ will be with him gives me a hope that does not make me want to know what is happening on the other side.
I recently lost my mother. She went through a long process of death, and in those days we talked. I learned things and heard things I did not know. Now that she is gone, I do not want to know how she is. Her faith informed her that she was going to be with the Lord, and that is where I believe she is.
This story does not attempt to involve God in the afterlife; it’s a secular myth of what happens when people die. There’s a subplot about a scientist who has done research showing there is a universal experience of those near death. But that’s about it as far as the movie giving some basis for an afterlife.
For some, the idea that those on the other side are fine may be important. Roger Ebert’s review was headlined, “Why we need an afterlife, real or not.” Yet as a Christian, my opinion on this matter is settled. For those whose faith does not involve an afterlife, maybe “Hereafter” aids them in the grief process. But it did not speak to me.
Mike Parnell is pastor of Beth Car Baptist Church in Halifax, Va.
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for mature thematic elements including disturbing disaster and accident images, and for brief strong language.
Director: Clint Eastwood
Writer: Peter Morgan
Cast: Matt Damon: George Lonegan; Cecile De France: Marie LeLay; Jay Mohr: Billy; George McLaren: Marcus; Frankie McLaren: Jason; Bryce Dallas Howard: Melanie; Marthe Keller: Dr. Rousseau.
The movie’s website is here.
Michael Parnell is pastor of Temple Baptist Church in Raleigh, North Carolina. He is married and has two boys. His love is for movies, and he can be found in a theater most Fridays.